Now hiring: Hundreds of job seekers flood School District of Philadelphia job fair

The district is hoping to fill 1,000 vacancies before the start of the new school year.

Jordan Richards talks with recruiters at a check-in table at the SDP job fair.

Jordan Richards registers with talent team at School District of Philadelphia job fair. (Amanda Fitzpatrick/WHYY)

The School District of Philadelphia opened its doors at William D. Kelley School with the hopes of increasing its talent pool and filling the hundreds of vacancies across the district.

The job fair is the second stop for the district’s school-based hiring tour. They hope to fill 1,000 vacancies for the 2023-2024 school year.

Deputy chief of talent for the district Terri Rita says 200 applicants were standing outside before the event began, and many will take advantage of the on-site hiring process.

“We are set up to be able to get them to apply, to complete their testing, complete interviewing, get them on the path so they can start getting processed for hiring,” Rita said.

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Jordan Richards was one of the many who came with hopes of landing a new job with the district.

“It’s a good experience to know they are hiring on the spot. Today, I applied for the student climate staff and bus attendant jobs, but I feel like working in the school would be much better for me because I can get a visual on how children act,” Richards said.

Jordan Richards talks with people at a check-in table.
Jordan Richards registers with talent team at School District of Philadelphia job fair. (Amanda Fitzpatrick/WHYY)

Richards grew up in West Philly and hopes getting a support staff job today will lead to a path of becoming a social worker in the future.

The district has 1,000 school-based support staff and teacher positions and claims to have filled most. “For secretaries, we are 95% staff, for general cleaners we are 96% staff, for teachers at this moment in time we’re about 95% staff which is great,” Rita said.

There is still a lot of work to do to fill hundreds of openings in positions like bus attendants, bus drivers, general cleaners, and jobs in food services, just to name a few. Though this job fair is geared at support-staff only, filling teacher positions is also in progress for the new school year.

In Philadelphia, there are still 300 teacher vacancies to fill, with 200 candidates currently in the onboarding process. Some teachers left the industry after the pandemic which created a critical shortage. Some say that the exodus was due to curriculum, crime, and lack of resources.

“We know the hardest job in the world is a teacher,” Rita said, which is why the district has programs to retain and support new teachers.

Rita says she anticipates teachers will get a raise in the fall, which she says will also be a good incentive to stay.

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“Our teachers will get an increase as the salary skill moves up on September 1 with the current contract. Contract negotiations will begin again … probably this winter, this spring, and I anticipate they will consider additional salary increases,” Rita said.

But for Richards, whose mom also works for the district, it’s not just about the pay; it’s about getting in the classroom and making a difference.

“I feel like it wouldn’t discourage me at all because like, I was also a child growing up in the School District of Philadelphia and it wasn’t all that bad. Seeing it now, I do feel like it can be better. Especially since they are hiring new staff and things like that. I feel like the new people they are bringing in can help the kids and the school of today,” Richards said.

It’s a sentiment with which Rita agrees. “Folks don’t go into teaching for the air conditioning, they go into teaching to really impact students. I just really hope that individuals considering the career will try it and hope they stay doing it. It’s so important and critical work for this city and our country,” Rita said.

The next school-based support hiring events will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on July 26 at Samuel Fels High School, and on August 9 at Edwin M. Stanton School.

Organizers say applicants shouldn’t arrive too early before doors open and that the application can be filled out online to speed up the process. They also encourage job seekers to determine if testing is needed for the position ahead of the job fair. There’s more information about specific positions available and how to apply on the district’s website.

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